2015 Mo Ibrahim Index sees stagnating governance progress in Africa

2015 Mo Ibrahim Index sees stagnating governance progress in Africa

The 2015 Mo Ibrahim Index shows a stagnation in governance progress in Africa, with more than a third of the countries having experienced a reversal since 2011. CAR, Mali and South Sudan have predictably fallen far behind, while the Ivory Coast and – surprisingly – Zimbabwe are credited with progress in key areas.

Over a third of African countries have experienced a stagnation or deterioration in governance indicators, according to the Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) that was presented on October 5th.

The index compiles an annual rating for African nations based on 93 indicators in 4 conceptual categories: safety and rule of law, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunity, and human development. The index has only improved with 0.2 points over the last four years, and half of the top ten ranked countries have witnessed a decline.

At the London launch, founder Mo Ibrahim (pictured), a Sudanese born telecommunication tycoon and philanthropist, said that while the continent have improved overall compared to 15 years ago, the new index shows that “recent progress in other key areas on the continent has either stalled or reversed, and that some key countries seem to be faltering.”

He emphasized that the figures should not be used to make generalizations about Africa, but the index nevertheless shows a clear stagnation on key indicators.

Zimbabwe one of the few surprises

The small island-state of Mauritius kept its place on the top, followed by Cape Verde, Botswana, South Africa and Namibia, while Somalia remains on the bottom across all categories. CAR, South Sudan and Mali are among the biggest losers compared to previous years, reflecting the the deteriorating security situation in these countries over the last years.

Cote D’Ivoire has by far seen the greatest overall improvement. The country saw thousands killed in the civil war that erupted after the 2010 presidential elections, when the incumbent Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power to Alassane Ouattara, and improvements since then is to a large degree attributed to efforts by Ouattara’s government to impose stability.

One of the few surprises in this year’s rating was the presence of Zimbabwe among the top six improvers, showing the second largest improvement from 2011 after Cote D’Ivoire. Even when accounting for the fact that the country is scoring poorly in absolute terms – ranking 43 out of 54 states – it is difficult to ignore its significant increase in the categories of participation and human rights, indicating that perhaps some areas have improved in the country.

Business opportunities suffer most

One important feature of this year’s index is the fact that the category sustainable economic opportunity, which measures efforts to create a favorable environment for businesses and investors, has suffered the biggest setbacks over the last four years.

This is a cause for concern, as the World Bank is predicting an economic slowdown in Sub-Saharan Africa, with regional growth expected to fall from 4.6% in 2014 to 3.7% in 2015. Much of this is caused by the end of a commodity super cycle, with substantial drops in prices for copper, iron ore and oil. This trend is naturally taking a heavy toll on the many African countries that are dependent on export of natural resources – from bauxite in Guinea, copper in Zambia or petroleum in Angola and Nigeria.

To make matters worse, it comes at the same time as the slowdown in China creates less global demand for commodities. Said slowdown also leads to a decrease in China’s foreign investments in Africa; investments which have greatly contributed to growth over the last decade.

Despite this, some countries are bucking the regional trend – including Cote D’Ivoire, which is expected to see growth of 7% in the next years due to a healthy investment climate and growing consumer spending.

Safety still the main concern in Africa

The overall objective of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation is to “bring about meaningful change on the continent, by providing tools to support progress in leadership and governance.” The foundation also awards the $5 million Mo Ibrahim Prize; given to a democratically elected African leader who has demonstrated exceptionally leadership as well as willingly left power at the end of their term.

While the foundation is generally lauded for generating increased attention for governance challenges in Africa, is has also been criticzed for presuming that there exist strong civil society organizations that are able to effectively utilize the index to foster change.

While the Foundation links good governance together with the overall progress of African nations, it also emphasizes that the main challenge for the continent is still safety and the rule of law.

About Author

Havard Bergo

Håvard is a foreign policy analyst who works in Kampala for LPC Consult International, a consulting company that specializes on developing projects in East Africa and Mozambique. He has previously worked with the United Nations in Bangkok and as a project manager for a research project in Montreal. Håvard graduated with an MSc in International Relations from the London School of Economics (LSE).